Skip to main content

Draft environment notification gives big industries 'free hand', withdraw it: NAPM

Counterview Desk 
India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded that the Government of India should immediately withdrawal the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification  2020, pointing out that the only aim of the notification is to “further weaken environmental regulations”.
Pointing out that the draft notification has been used in the name of ‘Ease of Doing Business’, which is “a sure doom for environment”, an NAPM statement said, the move is not only “anti-people, anti-nature and against the spirit of the Constitution”, but strangely comes amidst the lockdown regime, when the country is coping with a pandemic.

Text:

Even as the country is reeling under the impacts of the lockdown and coping with a pandemic, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has made a time-bound call for comments on the draft EIA Notification 2020, published on its website on 12th March, 2020. NAPM condemns this ill-timed move aimed at complete dilution of existing provisions that are meant to protect the interests of the environment and project affected people.
The EIA notification, first issued in 1994, under the Environment Protection Act 1986, is a critical mechanism which regulates clearances granted to all kinds of development projects and economic activities in the country.
It is one of the environmental decision-making processes that makes it mandatory for project developers and companies to not just study the socio-economic, ecological and other impacts of a proposed project but also place them in front of the affected communities for their opinions and objections, i.e free, fair and informed consent.
However, this notification has been amended several times in the last two decades in favour of ‘easing the norms’ for business. The latest draft continues to move in the direction of rendering the EIA process anti-people, anti-nature and against the spirit of the Constitution. There are various problematic dilutions and changes in the draft which include:
  • allowing post facto approvals – i.e. starting construction without clearance in certain conditions (which is currently a violation), this reduces clearance as mere formality
  • expanding the list of projects exempted from public consultation, including modernization of irrigation projects, all building, construction and area development projects, inland waterways, expansion or widening of national highways, all projects concerning national defence and security or involving “other strategic considerations” as determined by the central government, all linear projects like pipelines in border areas and all the off-shore projects located beyond the 12 nautical miles. 
  • extending the validity period of clearance granted to mining project from 30 to 50 years 
  • absence of a post clearance compliance and monitoring strategy. Decreasing the monitoring requirement from ‘6-month monitoring’ requirement of the projects cleared to ‘annual monitoring’, leading to further reduction in accountability. 
The proposed changes make our country more vulnerable to unprecedented environmental disasters by decreasing public participation and giving free reign to polluting industries.
Under the guise of increasing the ‘ease of doing business’, the mockery being made of existing environmental regulations threatens the ecology of the nation and makes the people more vulnerable to unforeseen environmental disasters. Past experiences have shown that the economic claims which generally accompany such devastating changes in the environmental policy almost never benefit the affected communities.
The communities directly affected by such crippling changes to the environmental policy are the ones whose lives are closely intertwined with nature: the adivasis and other forest dependent people, pastoralists, farmers, fishworkers, and women. These are the same communities who have historically been a victim of the growth at any cost model of development.
It is equally bizarre that while our planet is poised at the brink of a catastrophic climate crisis, the MoEFCC is pushing such regressive environmental policy. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has also been linked to unrelenting destruction of natural ecosystems and globalisation, has given us a wakeup call to mend our relationship with the earth.
The Government of India must heed this alarm bell and strengthen environmental protection laws and governance in India, in the interest of the ecology, the economy and the millions of people whose lives and livelihoods are deeply linked to natural resources. 
Lockdown restrictions make it impossible to disseminate information about the notification to the directly affected communities
This notification was published just as India reported its first death due to corona virus. The timing of this notification and the fact that the deadline of 60 days has not been removed is telling of the apathy of MoEFCC.
The restrictions imposed by the lockdown make it impossible to disseminate information about the notification to the communities which will be directly affected by the new amendments. Asking the people for objections and suggestions regarding such a crucial notification at this time of a public health, social and economic crisis is a complete travesty of justice and democracy.
We strongly demand:
  1. That the government immediately withdraw this draft notification immediately.
  2. That the government issue a revised notification only after giving due consideration to the environmental concerns that have been raised by various environmental groups and communities. 
  3. That such revised notification, if issued, be issued only after the country has recovered from the lockdown and the pandemic and that an appropriate amount of time be given to the people for objections and suggestions. The procedure in the Pre-Legislative Consultative Policy of 2014 needs to be fully complied with. 
  4. That the government should create a robust environmental regulatory and governance regime that makes project proponents accountable and keeps the affected communities and ecological concerns at the centre of the EIA and environmental decision-making process. 
  5. That the central government consider a rethink of its economic policies in the light of global climate crisis and the vulnerability of natural ecosystems, focusing on non-polluting and local livelihood generating small and medium businesses. 
NAPM strongly believes that the blatant sidelining of the public consultation process proposed by this draft, while virtually giving big industries a free hand over our land and natural resources, unencumbered by the need to get environmental clearances or to consult the affected communities, surely spells doom for protection of the environment in our country. This must be opposed by all.

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).